The GSBA Blog

  • An authentic life of service to the LGBT community and beyond

    | Jun 27, 2017

    McDevitt_300x200In every life story, there is a defining moment, an event that forms character, shapes values and establishes the purpose by which one lives.

    For RBC Wealth Management financial advisor, Neil McDevitt of Seattle, WA, that defining moment was the deadly AIDS epidemic of the 1980s.

    “When I was in my early 20s, my partner of 31 years and now husband, Richard, and I were going to a funeral at least once a month. We lost so many friends – so many amazing, talented people were taken away from us,” McDevitt says. “I have to make up for what we lost.”

    And that life purpose is service. For more than 20 years, McDevitt has felt a strong compulsion to donate countless hours annually to causes serving the LGBTQ community.

    “Sometimes I feel like I do not do enough,” he quickly adds.

    What may sometimes not feel like enough to McDevitt is actually quite a lot when you break it down.

    Serving the community
    One of the organizations that has benefited from McDevitt’s personal and professional attention is the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA). Through his efforts serving on the board and as a consultant – and McDevitt credits the work of other committed volunteers like him – the GSBA has grown to the largest LGBT and allied chamber of commerce in North America.

    “I thought it would be a great way to be an ‘out’ financial advisor, and be of service to LGBTQ people and businesses,” McDevitt says.

    GBSA is known nationally for its effectiveness in marketing and providing business development for small business, connecting the community through business, advocating for civil rights and business, promoting LGBT travel and investing in the next generation of leaders. Indeed, one of the programs of the GSBA that McDevitt is most passionate about is its scholarship fund.

    The scholarship fund provides financial resources and role modeling to outstanding LGBTQ and allied students, many of whom have no traditional means of support. Over time, it has given more than $3 million to eligible students and this year alone has provided $400,000 in scholarships.

    McDevitt is considered a major fundraiser for the fund. It had no endowment when he became involved with it. And true to his humble nature, he gives credit to many others he has recruited to the cause over the years who also contributed to its success. Perhaps others have found inspiration in his enthusiasm for the subject, and this fact should not be overlooked.

    “Some people have accused me of being Tom Sawyer, you know, getting others to do your work for you” McDevitt says with a laugh.

    Louise Chernin, chief executive officer of GSBA says McDevitt’s passion, leadership abilities and commitment to equality help ensure both the chamber and scholarship fund are strong and sustainable.

    “Neil cares about people and relationships,” Chernin says. “He is always ready to listen, bring people together and find ways to constructively address challenges. Neil is one of the most positive people I know and his leadership style is one that is inclusive and respectful.”

    Another LGBTQ organization that benefits from a significant investment of McDevitt’s time and talent is the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). He has long been a member of its corporate advisory board and he is responsible for RBC Wealth Management’s sponsorship of this national coordinator of resources and programs to help promote pro-business and pro-LGBTQ policies.

    The NGLCC is currently focused on setting LGBTQ supplier diversity certification standards and McDevitt is playing a key role in lobbying the governments of both Seattle and King County, WA to adopt procedures for doing business with of certified LGBTQ suppliers.

    “Neil sees how the LGBTQ community and the business community can work together to achieve their goals – and he has advocated for their interests at the local, regional and national level for many years,” says David Moskovitz, Seattle complex director at RBC Wealth Management-U.S. “He truly cares about helping people. It shows in his service, as both financial advisor and volunteer. His example inspires me to do my best and I am honored to work with him.”

    Other worthy causes that McDevitt contributes to include the Lifelong AIDS Alliance, Habitat for Humanity and the Houlahan Foundation, which empowers people with developmental disabilities to live fulfilled lives. He is a founding member of the foundation, because of his interest in calling attention to the needs of a group of people who have historically been overlooked in terms of inclusion and human rights.

    “As a young gay man, I felt like I did not have a voice,” McDevitt says. “So I have always tried to speak up for people who are voiceless.”

    Read the entire article here.

  • Ambassador Profile: Meridian Mayer

    | Jun 27, 2017
    Edit, August 27, 2018: Since the publication of this Ambassador Profile, Meridian Mayer has joined the GSBA staff as our Sr. Membership Services Manager. We spoke with them for an update on their role here at GSBA!

    What is your role at GSBA?
    I help lead several programs and initiatives including membership development, ambassadors, OUTLeads program, Travel Out Seattle – program of GSBA dedicated to LGBTQ inbound tourism, and all volunteer coordination.

    What is your favorite part about being involved with GSBA?

    Contributing to work that is much bigger than me, and experiencing that impact firsthand.

    How can somebody get involved with GSBA or contact you?
    We are always looking for new members, ambassadors, and volunteers! To learn more, contact me at or


    For more about Meridian, visit their staff profile.


    Original post from August 2017

    2018GSBAStaff-MeridianMeridian Mayer, Sr. Manager, Membership Development & Premium Seating with the Seattle Storm

    I am originally from Cleveland, OH (go Cavs!) and have been in Seattle for 7 years. When I initially moved to Seattle I was in search of wonderful, dedicated, cause-oriented people. 
    I’ve always had a passion for connecting people and engaging communities, with the intent of bringing out the very best in both. Fueled by this, I’ve spent the past 5 years doing exactly that in my work with Seattle’s two-time WNBA Championship team, the Seattle Storm. 
    After starting my work with the Storm, I met Louise and BOOM – I was a GSBA member (we all know how that goes)! I’ve remained active and engaged in the GSBA simply because of the people. I am grateful for who I’ve found through the GSBA, because the people make the GSBA community wonderful, impactful, and inspiring. 
    Being an Ambassador is great, because we’ve all, at some point, felt like the new person at a networking event. You know the time – when you “check your emails” or pretend to accept a phone call just so that awkward feeling dissipates. Well, as an Ambassador, it’s our mission to make you feel welcomed, included, engaged, and comfortable. 
    So, if you ever find yourself “checking your emails” in a room full of people at a GSBA event, look for me – I’ll be happy to help connect you!

  • Featured Member: Rubicon Float Studio

    | Jun 27, 2017

    Robert BarrMy name is Robert Barr and I am the founder and owner of Rubicon Float Studio. I am a graduate of the University of Washington. Go Huskies! I graduated with a BFA in Photography from the University of Washington in 2009. After school, I founded the successful real estate photography company, Washington Home Tours LLC. While I loved my business, I knew I wanted to help others as part of my life’s mission. I started an existential journey looking at careers and businesses I could start that would help the greater good and improve people's lives.

    Eventually, I found float therapy. I first found out about floating in 2013 from some news articles about the art of floating and how it can improve your life. It intrigued me, not only for what it could do to my own health and well being but what it could do for others. What is floating? Simply put, floating is laying on a bed of warm Epsom salt water and floating with ease, in a calming chamber, away from stress and distraction. Allowing you to spend a few moments with yourself, relaxing, repairing, and rejuvenating.

    At the start of 2014 I decided to change my path in life. I started to focus full time on getting a Float Studio up and running. I found other successful float centers around the country and started visiting them to learn as much as I could about the industry. What I thought would be an easy to achieve goal, turned into a long journey. I did not realize how difficult starting and operating a Float Studio would be. I spent three years researching and learning best practices and trying to improve and iterate on what the industry has achieved up to this point.

    Fuji RoomI am very proud to offer floating to the community at large, but particularly proud to be an LGBTQ owned and operated business. Floating offers a wide range of benefits to our community both mental and physical. Many of us deal with the struggles of acceptance in a large community, and floating allows you time to shift your perspective. Floating gives you and others the opportunity to see the world from a new vantage point.  It is my hope that through the practice of floating, we will all evolve to become better humans. Float therapy also aids in stress reduction, pain management, creative ideation, and a multitude of other aspects of our lives.

    At Rubicon Float Studio, we challenge our guests to make life-changing investments for their health & wellness, and see regular floating as key to unlocking your true potential. We are located at 9715 NE 119th Way in Kirkland, WA. Rubicon Float Studio is in Juanita Bay area just north of Kirkland.  You can reach us by calling 1-866-356-2888 or visit us online at We look forward to seeing you at our Studio and guiding your through your journey to better health and wellness!

  • Seattle embraces LGBT businesses

    by Amy Moreno
    | Jun 24, 2017

    Seattle’s Pride Celebration may only last a few days, but some say the city’s thriving LGBT business community is something that should be celebrated year round. Some of the community’s favorite businesses are owned by members of the gay community.

    Seattle boasts the largest LGBT Chamber of Commerce, and some of the city’s most popular businesses are members.  Cupcake Royale, Fuel Coffee, and Tutta Bella Restaurants are just a few of the 1,200 businesses that belong to the Greater Seattle Business Association.

    Tutta Bella owner Joe Fugere takes a lot of pride in every aspect of his business.  It starts with his food.

    "Our pizza doesn't travel long distances. It's like a great cup of espresso it needs to be consumed almost immediately,” he explains.  It’s the reason they invested in a pizza truck with its own wood oven so they could take their pizza on the road.

    Fugere even takes pride in the tomatoes that go into his food.

    “The tomatoes are grown in the volcanic soil of Mt Vesuvius” he explained.  “They’re handpicked and hand sorted and canned in Italy.”

    Fugere recently partnered with PCC markets to sell the canned tomatoes in their stores.

    “If you had asked me 13 years ago, when I started this business, would I be in the retail business, in the food truck business and the restaurant business, I would have said you're crazy.”

    What makes his journey even more remarkable is Joe has done it as an openly gay businessman - one of many embraced by the Seattle community.

    “I think we have a responsibility, here in Seattle, as LGBT business owners, to set an example for the rest of the country for those areas that feel some discomfort around this,” he said.

    “I think, if they can look at a city that has fully embraced it and supported it, you become a role model and there is a sense of responsibility for those of us in Seattle who feel so fortunate to be in the situation that we're in.”

  • The GSBA Pride Business Luncheon

    by Louise Chernin, President & CEO
    | Jun 16, 2017

    CHERNIN,LOUISE_2017_blog_217x202What a great way to launch Pride month. Our June 14 GSBA Pride Business Luncheon was the best! There was such great energy during the Business Expo, outstanding presentations and the unveiling of our 2017/2018 GSBA Guide & Directory.

    Just the mention of Attorney General Bob Ferguson caused the room to erupt in applause with a warm standing ovation to the person who has provided national leadership in challenging the travel ban. AG Ferguson's presentation on the background and status of Washington State's lawsuit against the federal travel ban was not only informative but made us all proud to have an AG with such courage and commitment to uphold the law and the US Constitution. Of course, hearing the step by step drama that unfolded when Port Commissioner Courtney Gregoire literally stopped a plane already on the tarmac, preventing the deportation of two people, added to the drama that is hard to believe we are all living with in our state and country. It is because of their leadership that Washington State is leading and inspiring the nation in challenging this discriminatory ban.

    A highlight of the afternoon was welcoming Vincent Yao, Director General of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Seattle, to GSBA and his announcement of the first-ever LGBT Cultural Mission to Taiwan and Hong Kong that  is being sponsored by GSBA and the Seattle Chinese Chamber of Commerce. The mission will leave Seattle on October 26 and return on Nov 4. There are up to 50 spots available for those wanting to be part of history and I encourage you to not miss out on this lifetime opportunity.

    Special thanks to our emcee, Bryan Adamson, for so eloquently introducing our guests and leading our Q&A session, and to Rob Hampton and the Visit Seattle team for sharing the impact that the travel ban is already having on international travel to Seattle.

    Of course, I'd be remiss in not acknowledging the 21 businesses representing the travel, tourism, hospitality, media, and cannabis industries during the Business Expo. The displays were fun and interactive and businesses made some great connections. Big thanks to the luncheon sponsors and to Malcolm Smith, our photographer for always doing such a great job.

    Now that Pride is kicked off, there are tons of events to attend and GSBA will be at most of them. If you wish to staff a booth or walk in the parade with GSBA, please contact our office at 206-363-9188. If you'd like some 2017/2018 GSBA Guides for your own booth (they are a great draw)or some to distribute from your business, let us know.

    Happy Pride!
    Louise Chernin,
    President & CEO

  • Pride Events Expected to Attract Significant Increases in Attendance in 2017

    by Jason Dittmer, Director of Marketing & Communications
    | Jun 16, 2017

    Greg Phelps at PrideThe Community Marketing & Insights (CMI) 11th Annual LGBT Community Survey®, fielded in April/May 2017, drew participation from 17,300 LGBTQ Americans across the spectrum of sexual orientations, gender identities, generations and ethnicities. It is the largest, longest-running study of its kind; a profile of community members involved in hundreds of LGBTQ media, websites, blogs, social media, apps, organizations and events. 

    Among the survey questions, it was found that 63% of LGBTQ Americans surveyed said that that they will (or already did) attend their hometown Pride in 2017. This is compared to 47% having attended their hometown Pride events last year, representing a 34% increase in interest and participation for 2017

    Further, 84% reported that Pride events across the United States are as important as ever, and 82% indicated that they feared rollbacks of recent LGBTQ equality gains. With recent political changes and uncertainty, LGBTQ Pride events are taking on a renewed importance in 2017, and CMI anticipates record attendance this year.

    Full results from the Community Marketing & Insights 11th Annual LGBT Community Survey® will be released July 5, 2017. Click here to register to receive a free copy of the report when it is released.

    Community Marketing & Insights, founded in 1992, is a full service, LGBTQ-dedicated market research firm. CMI serves a wide range of clients including Aetna Insurance, Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate, DirecTV, Target Brands and Wells Fargo Bank, and produces LGBTQ studies for corporations, universities, non-profits and government institutions, including the U.S. Census. CMI is a GSBA member and a certified LGBT Business Enterprise. Learn more about CMI here.

  • The GSBA Scholarship Fund Founders Brunch

    by Mark Rosén, VP of Development & External Relations
    | Jun 05, 2017

    founders brunch perspective q3 2017 600x337Yesterday, past Board Chair Kevin Gaspari and his husband Kent Thoelke opened their beautiful home to a gathering of the Scholarship Fund founders, visionaries, and Scholarship alums. What began, in true Seattle fashion as a slightly cool day, turned into one of the warmest gatherings of kindred spirits who all shared the common history of support for the GSBA Scholarship Fund. As stories were shared around the room, we were reminded of the very first days of the Scholarship Fund and what it meant to connect as community around the mission to help those who had very little or no family support. Founder Bob Dlugosh shared the story of C. Wight Reade writing the very first check to the Scholarship Fund, and Louise Chernin spoke about his legacy gift at his passing many years later.

    Dave Brown and Josie Gardner both told tales of the true spirit of “roll your sleeves up and mop floors until midnight” that went into the very early Scholars Dinners. One of the very earliest scholars, Chris Kuhel (1995) shared how he has come full circle from a young, closeted, boy in suburban King County to a Scholarship volunteer, mentor, donor, and inspiration. Eric King (2013, 2015, 2016) reminded everyone that LGBTQ scholars today need the support every bit as much as they needed it in 1991. The kinds of accomplishments GSBA scholars are achieving are demonstrated by the fact that Eric has been named as a Husky 100 Scholar and sits on UW President Ana Mari Cauce’s Population Health Executive Council.

    As each individual shared their personal story of involvement and dedication, the word “family” was often repeated and, even 27 years later, the power of connections was evident. The vision and foresight of those few who were present in the early days provided the solid foundation that the Scholarship Fund needed to grow. The goals they set and surpassed raised the bar high for what is now one of the largest LGBTQ Scholarship Funds in the country. From $5,000 in 1991 to awarding the three millionth dollar in 2017, the GSBA Scholarship Fund could not have done it without the dedication and will power of those who were there at the beginning and the succession of generous individuals inspired by them, who have continued to go further in the mission “To invest in the education of a diverse group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and allied students who have the capacity and vision to be the next generation of leaders working to create a better world for all.” At a time where so much once again seems at risk, the importance of coming together cannot be underestimated, so we look forward to making this an annual event.

  • Featured Member: Hot Diggity! Dog Walking + Pet Sitting

    | May 29, 2017
    By Jill Nelson, owner of hot diggity! dog walking + pet sitting.

    Jill Nelson_27I am the proud owner of Hot Diggity! Dog Walking and Pet Sitting in Seattle, but walking dogs for a living was never one of my aspirations growing up.  As early as high school I knew I wanted to be in business. That said, I have always loved animals. Growing up we had dogs, cats, goats, chickens and ducks on our 10-acre home in Iowa.

    After earning both an undergraduate degree in Business Management and an MBA I built my career running several different types of retail businesses and then working for a while as a business consultant. Buying Hot Diggity a couple years ago brought me back to the many of my roots, it gave me the opportunity to work with animals and actively running a business instead of advising other business owners and I am loving it!

    Hot Diggity! was started in Portland OR in 2001 and has expanded to Vancouver, WA, and Seattle, WA, over the last 5 years.  The company offers a wide range of services, most provided in the clients home where their pets enjoy familiar surroundings and reduced stress.  From dog walking, to drop-in and overnight pet care, and even taxi services, Hot Diggity! Provides premium service at an affordable rate. We pride ourselves on great service to all our clients, two-legged and four-legged! I have a great team of around a dozen walkers who cover most of the Seattle Metro area.  A list of all the zip codes we cover is on our website. We also offer an availability guarantee for our regular clients, which is above and beyond in this industry.

    As soon as I acquired the Seattle location I knew I needed to join the GSBA. I have long been active in the Portland OR Chamber, PABA, and Hot Diggity! Seattle is an LGBTBE certified business. When running a consulting company a majority of my referrals came through my chamber and NGLCC connections. As a small business owner I know the value of networking and building relationships.  I also know how much the LGBT communities love their pets, so joining was a no-brainer.  Being a part of GSBA has already had a positive impact on my business both from the people I have met and the marketing opportunities has provided. I also appreciate the voice in the community that the chamber give to its members. Especially in this political climate we need to work together and make sure our voices are heard. As far as I am concerned, if you are an LGBT business owner, being a member of GSBA is just good business!


  • Remembering a Community Leader: Karen Jensen

    | May 26, 2017
    karen obituary may 2017Karen Marie Jensen loved friends and family, math and mountains, sailboats and softball, Sousa marches and The Beach Boys. At the age of 61, on May 21, 2017 Karen died following the removal of a brain tumor. 

    Karen grew up on the beach in Coronado, California, playing tuba in the school band. She moved to Oak Harbor, Washington with parents, Joe and Shirley Jensen, where she finished high school, later graduating from UCLA and settling in Seattle. Working in a Seattle print shop she met the love of her life, Patty Carlisle. They went on to create and run Urban Press together for more than 30 years. 

    Karen was warm and generous, giving her time and energy to anyone who asked. Over the years she tutored kids in math, worked with the APP Task Force, served on the boards of the Lesbian Resource Center and the Federation of Gay Games. She passionately wanted to make the world better for young people.

    Karen’s greatest joy, though, came as a parent. She spent endless hours sharing her love of books by reading aloud to her daughter. She went to PTA meetings and watched youth soccer in the rain. Karen and Patty’s daughter Monica is fierce and fearless, and she filled Karen’s heart like no other.

    Karen is survived by her wife Patty Carlisle, daughter Monica Jensen, siblings Heidi Holmes, Chuck Jensen and wife Jan, John Jensen and husband Bill, and a cadre of nieces and nephews. Her chosen family included Nancy Hawkins, Andie Anderson, Emily Martin, Camber Grant, and Paaqua Grant and his wife Caitrin Elwell. She loved you all.

    Karen possessed quiet grace, soft-spoken intelligence and unmatched kindness. A celebration of life event will be announced. Family requests tributes be directed to Girls in Engineering Math and Science or The Trevor Project.
  • The 2017 GSBA Scholars Dinner

    by Louise Chernin, President & CEO
    | May 24, 2017

    CHERNIN,LOUISE_2017_blog_217x202Hearts were bursting with pride as over 500 guests including scholars, donors, community leaders and elected officials gathered to witness history as GSBA gave out its $3 millionth dollar in scholarships awarded since 1991.

    This Fund, and the hope it provides, has changed the lives of over 500 LGBT and allied students but, perhaps the biggest game changer is the launch of the GSBA Guarantee. The Guarantee promises up to four years of support to GSBA Scholars as long as they continue their part by doing their best in school. This extraordinary commitment is possible because of you, and your understanding of the power of education to change lives.The exciting news continued as long-term GSBA member and Antioch Board member,Steve Crandall, came on stage to announce the GSBA Leadership Academy, an innovative leadership experience created through a partnership between Antioch and GSBA with support from Microsoft and input from several GSBA donors. This Leadership Academy will hold its first immersion weekend this August at Islandwood Retreat Center on Bainbridge Island during which all 45 scholars will be brought together to go through a three-day leadership curriculum.

    The emotion exhibited in that ballroom was palpable as founders and early donors; six college presidents, a college chancellor, a Supreme Court Justice, a long list of elected officials, community leaders, small business owners and major corporate partners, showed up to celebrate the next generation of leaders and our hope for a better future. It is always a treat to have Justice Yu offer special remarks and this year she also introduced US Senator Maria Cantwell to join her on stage to address our guests. Certainly, the most powerful highlight of the evening came when past GSBA Scholar and 2016 Community Leader of the Year Aidan Key shared his powerful, personal journey and talked about what it meant to him in 2005 to receive a GSBA Scholarship. This year, another new endowment was announced when Sandy Peterson came on stage to present the first Theodore and Rosemarie Ockels Scholarship to Victor Puoci. It is always poignant when our donors who have created named scholarships come on stage to meet their new scholars who received the following named scholarships: Bright Horizon Scholarship; Rich Thoelke Memorial Scholarship; David Barzilai Memorial Scholarship; Chester Podlodowski Scholarship and the L. Robb Scholarship. Additionally, our two Diamond Sponsors, Wells Fargo and Microsoft presented their scholarships.

    Thank you to our Emcee Extraordinaire, Danny Cords, Table Captains, remarkable volunteers, photographers Malcolm Smith and Dani Weiss for capturing the evening and Aria Style for the beautiful arrangements. Because of the generosity of the evening's sponsors: Title Sponsor, PwC; Provost Sponsors Alaska Airlines, Amazon, and Carter Subaru; and Mentor Sponsor, CenturyLink, 100% of your donations that night are able to be invested in our Scholars. Big thanks also to Interchange Media, Precept Wine, and the Seattle Marriott Waterfront for all the support they gave to this event and to their wonderful staff for taking such good care of us.

    Special thanks must also go to our Board Chair, Drew Ness; Scholarship Chair Carrie Carson; dinner Co-Chair Dena Levine; and dinner committee members Katie Mooney and Robert Rhodehamel for giving countless hours to ensure the GSBA Scholarship Fund remains strong. Working alongside this extraordinary Board are GSBA staff members Carlos Chavez, Program and Events Manager, Travis Mears, Director of Development & Scholarship Programs, and Mark Rosén, VP of Development & Corporate Relations and the entire Team GSBA.

    Spending an evening meeting our extraordinary scholars and hearing their stories about how GSBA Scholarships transformed their lives; listening to donors talk about how meaningful it is to honor someone through a named scholarship or learning about the lasting impact of leaving a legacy, many of us now are inspired to take the step by investing in the next generation of leaders. If you are considering a first donation or a lasting gift to support a future LGBTQ or allied leader, please don't hesitate to reach out to Travis Mears or Mark Rosén. You have the power to be that next donor that will change a scholar's life forever. You have the power to ensure a better future for our community. Please consider joining the GSBA Guarantee by making a meaningful gift to the Scholarship Fund.

    It's not too late to join the celebration and to invest in the next generation of leaders by making a donation today.

    For the future,

    Louise Chernin,
    President & CEO

    from Steve Gunn, Wells Fargo Advisors

    247“As a member of GSBA’s Scholarship Steering Committee and one of the chapter leaders of Wells Fargo’s PRIDE Team Member Network, it is truly an honor for me to help announce our 2017 GSBA Scholar. I would like to thank GSBA for changing so many lives through the scholarship program. I support GSBA because I know how much its members care. They care about supporting small business. They care about creating inclusive workplaces. And they care about investing in our youth. Our support of the GSBA Scholarship Fund is one of the most important investments we make because we are investing in our future leaders—any one of whom can literally change the course of history… Watch and see!”

    from Isyss Honnen, GSBA Scholar

    Isyss Honnen GSBA scholar dinner 2017“Through my volunteer work as a facilitator for [trans]ACTION, a support group for Pacific Islander Trans+ and Gender Non-conforming individuals in the sex industry, I empower them to pursue higher education and leadership development. I am also supporting by providing resources—such as access to healthcare, legal help, education, and employment—and as an unconditional support system through U.T.O.P.I.A. Seattle. Because of your investment in the GSBA Scholarship Fund, I will become the first person in my family to graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree. I will sit for the CPA Exam at the end of this year after I receive my B.S. in Accounting from Western Governors University. GSBA is an integral part of my journey to success. Thank you for this opportunity!” 

    (Isyss Honnen was raised in Pago Pago, American Samoa, until leaving for college in Hawaii at 17 years old. She moved to Washington for more opportunities and is now pursuing an undergraduate degree in Accounting with plans to become a licensed C.P.A. Isyss uses her past experiences to empower other Pacific Islander trans women in understanding and believing that life and happiness exists outside of the box we’re forced into by society. Isyss attends Western Governors University.)

  • Afro-American society honors GSBA Scholar

    by Cameron Probert
    | May 23, 2017

    About 425 Tri-City students were recognized at a special ceremony Sunday for maintaining a 3.0 grade point average this school year.

    The Afro-Americans for an Academic Society has awarded thousands of dollars in scholarships to students since the 1990s.

    Six seniors were recognized for being part of the program starting in the fourth grade and they were given scholarships for college. They are (l-r):

    AAAS studentsKevin Augustine, 18, Richland High School, plans to attend Columbia Basin College to pursue a degree in electrical engineering.

    Jazmin Grant-Ruud, 18, Hanford High School, plans to attend Columbia Basin College to pursue a degree in medicine.

    Abum Okemgbo, 17, Hanford High School, plans to attend the University of Pennsylvania to pursue a degree in bio-engineering.

    GSBA Scholar Ryan Wagstaff, 18, Richland High School, plans to attend the University of Washington to pursue a degree in medicine.

    Mariah Johnson, 18, Hanford High School, plans to attend Georgetown University to pursue a degree in government.

    Celeste Jones, 18, Chiawana High School, plans to attend Washington State University to pursue a degree in nursing.

  • 10 Tips to make your Capabilities Statement Pitch Memorable

    | May 17, 2017

    April 17th, 2017 |  Article Credit: BrandQuery


    This month, BrandQuery was pleased to present at the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA) business development event held at the Starbucks headquarters in Seattle, WA.

    Our own Director of Strategy, Wendy Poischbeg was asked to share an example of a Capabilities Statement (CS) on BrandQuery’s comprehensive experience managing crisis response to promote economic recovery. Wendy delivered a “mock” pitch to Manager of Global Sourcing and Supplier Relations, Supplier Diversity for Starbucks, James Hing.


    What is a Capabilities Statement (CS) and why is it necessary in improving your odds of receiving a government bid?  Quite simply, a CS is a high-level overview of a company’s service or product that a procurement officer or supply chain manager can use to assess a business’s core competencies. The components are straight forward: a company’s overview, history, purpose and differentiators, as well as information on a company’s certifications and examples of past performance. You can see ours here.

    BQ Capabilities Statement (1)

    Presenting in a forum like what was provided by the GSBA is a fantastic opportunity to practice your pitch and gain valuable insight into potential gaps before the stakes are higher. Here are a few tips that will help your company make a great pitch and impression:

    1.) Do your homework. What are the mission, vision, and values of the company you are seeking to do business with? Do those values align with yours? Is the product, service, or idea you’re presenting a good fit? This concept seems like a no-brainier, but you would be surprised by the number of entrepreneurs that only consider the benefit to their own bottom-line, and not the company they’re trying to get a spend from.

    2.) What sets you apart from your competitors? What value does your business provide better than anyone else? What’s your differential? Are you offering an improved product or one that is more relevant? Will your offering bring improved results or growth?

    3.) Tailor your ask. One presentation doesn’t fit all. Your pitch should be customized to the business with whom you are trying to partner.

    4.) Be a great storyteller! The owner of Honest Biscuits has described learning to bake at the apron strings of his grandma when he was a boy in North Carolina. When he talks about the smell of the dough baking, the flour on the table, mouths water! What emotional connection will you share to make your business memorable?


    5.) Do you have a social purpose?
    53% of millennials are more willing to make a purchase from a company if their purchase supports a cause. Include the social platforms important to your company in your business profile (and don’t forget to include it on your website and social media pages as well.)

    6.) What is your track record? Provide relevant stats of your company’s sales, annual revenue, and current customers. Give a sense of scale and ability to perform and fulfil the work order.

    7.) Don’t be remembered for the wrong thing. It’s one thing to be passionate about your product or idea – but that doesn’t mean you can forget your boundaries. A follow-up note to a prospective client is appropriate – a daily phone call or email is not.

    8.) Use a professional domain name. If you want to be taken seriously, don’t use your personal Hotmail, Gmail, or Yahoo account.

    9.) Dress to impress! Don’t show up to your business meeting wearing flip flops and t-shirt. How you present yourself reflects your brand – and your attire is their first glimpse into how you would reflect their brand, too.

    10.) Your brand identity can’t be left to a desktop printer. Just like being dressed appropriately, your presentation materials should be professionally designed and printed. You only get one chance to make a first impression – does your marketing collateral provide the right one?


    Need assistance with writing a Capabilities Statement? Contact your local Procurement Technical Assistance Center PTAC office for a template and advice.


    by Lambda Legal
    | May 15, 2017

    lamda legal blog 2017 600x337Resisting Is What Lambda Legal Does Best

    The very first action of the Trump White House on Inauguration Day was to erase all references to LGBT people and HIV from You could say it’s been downhill ever since—or you could take a look at the groundswell of civil rights organizing in recent months and the powerful string of Lambda Legal victories in courts and legislatures coast to coast, red states and blue.

    In April, for instance, we won our biggest case since marriage equality. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in the middle of the Midwest affirmed what Lambda Legal has been arguing for years: Firing someone for their sexual orientation violates federal law. Our client was South Bend, Indiana math teacher Kim Hively, who lost her job at a local community college after someone saw her kissing her girlfriend good-bye in the school parking lot. This sort of thing goes on all the time in the U.S., sad to say, but too often there hasn’t been recourse. This marks a sea change.

    Housing rights leapt forward the very same week, using the same argument. Lambda Legal clients Rachel and Tonya Smith and their two children had been barred from renting a two-bedroom townhouse in Gold Hill, Colorado because of their “unique relationship,” code words, apparently, for the fact that they are gay and that Rachel is transgender. A federal court ruled that was against the law too.

    Founded in 1973, Lambda Legal is the oldest and largest national legal organization fighting for the rights of LGBT people and everyone living with HIV.

    Lately, that includes standing up to the scourge of “bathroom bills” targeting trans people and “religious exemptions” that give people who want to discriminate a pass under the guise of religious belief. More than 40 religious exemption bills are now under consideration in statehouses around the country—and the LGBT community’s opponents have begun focusing their attacks on children.

    Texas’s HB 3859, if it becomes law, will allow many foster care and adoption agencies—even those supported by public funds—to cite religious reasons and turn away young people and prospective parents if either or both is LGBTQ. Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota and Virginia have similar laws already.

    Even when these bills don’t pass in the end, however, there’s damage. The message to LGBT people is that many of their neighbors feel bullying is okay, in or out of public bathrooms. That was also the message in February when the Trump Administration cancelled an Obama-era advisory to public schools that had urged fairness for transgender students.

    Lambda Legal is prepared to fight anyone who tries to keep LGBT people out of public spaces or public life. Our restroom rights lawsuit in Pennsylvania against the Pine-Richland School District is so strong that a federal court has instructed the school to stop telling students which bathrooms they can use.

    We have been doing this work for a long time, so we know as much about hearts and minds as we do about laws. Lambda Legal was advocating for lesbian mothers and gay student groups back in the 1970s, and in the 1980s won the first-ever HIV discrimination lawsuit. Then came a slew of important courtroom victories on behalf of school kids, teachers, asylum seekers and more.

    Now we’re also the go-to lawyers on transgender rights, marriage equality, health care, family issues and workplace protections—whether arguing before the Supreme Court or fanning out, every day, into communities across the U.S. to participate in the bold strategizing that’s required now.

    This includes Washington State, of course, where we are joining our voices with the state’s many dedicated leaders in the Washington Won’t Discriminate coalition, calling out the wrong-headed “bathroom bill” initiative and supporting the important “decline to sign” effort underway now.

    “Sure, the national political scene seems to bring bad news on a daily basis, but Lambda Legal continues to win critical victories in the courts and to fight back fiercely against those who want to turn back time,” says Judi O’Kelley, Lambda Legal’s Seattle-based Director of Leadership.  “And with the anti-LGBT ballot threat looming in Washington, we are determined to defend our transgender sisters, brothers and neighbors against this misguided meanness and bullying.”

    Because the times call for it, Lambda Legal is committing more resources than ever to the intense work of resistance, opening our first Washington, D.C. office, for instance (our sixth), hiring more attorneys and kicking our educational work and policy advocacy up to the next level.

    We have never been so busy and we have never been so determined to continue moving forward which is why we invite Seattle, all LGBT people and Americans living with HIV to…Call us. We are your lawyers.

    To learn more about Lambda Legal or to donate, visit If you experience discrimination, visit

  • Precept Wine Supports Our Scholars

    by Austin Smith
    | May 15, 2017

    precept logo blog post 600x337Dear GSBA and Members,

    We would like to express our sincere appreciation to all GSBA Members and Staff who attended our Spring Fling Grand Tasting last week. It was a tremendous success with your help!

    We truly value our deepening partnership with the GSBA and all members. We sincerely appreciate the efforts everyone made on our behalf to make this event a success. In sum, we were able to raise $1,052 to support the GSBA’s Scholarship Fund!

    We know that every little bit counts and that every dollar raised truly impacts our community for the better. We look forward to continuing our work together and we are anticipating another wonderful event in November and many more to come! Thank you again for all that you do.

    Austin Smith
    Direct to Consumer Manager, Precept Wine

  • Global Report on LGBT Tourism

    by Jason Dittmer, Director of Marketing & Communications
    | May 10, 2017

    CUBA_400x267The United Nations World Tourism Organization and the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association released their joint Second Global Report on LGBT Tourism on May 5, 2017. The report discusses the relationship between rights for LGBT people around the world and the increasing visibility of LGBT consumers. It also looks at the trends that will be crucial to the development of the LGBT travel market in the future, such as the attitudes of millennials, increased global support for marriage equality, and the willingness of new destinations to welcome LGBT visitors.

    Download your copy of the UNWTO IGLTA Second Global Report on LGBT Tourism.

    GSBA / Travel Gay Seattle is a proud member of IGLTA.

  • Rethinking the Workplace

    by Kim Burmester, Vice President
    | May 08, 2017

    atlas workbase blog 2017 600x337When looking at the concept of ‘‘the workplace” today it is radically different than even just a few years ago. Perhaps the only boundaries to how we may think about it now is when we consider the actual physical walls and space they occupy. What we mean by that is, the office-workplace is becoming much more than just the four walls, workstations, reception desk, kitchen and bathroom, all wonderfully and carefully set about we’re sure. Those are some of the things you might find there. 

    You probably wouldn’t be surprised then to know that coworking spaces actually do boost productivity and retention: studies such as G. Bacevice, P., & Garrett, L. (2015) and Why People Thrive in Coworking Spaces, Harvard Business Review, illustrate how most people actually thrive much better in coworking situations versus traditional work spaces, even if it’s only a portion of their work day/week. 

    But like mostly everything it comes down to economics. On average 55% of all desks in traditional work spaces are empty at any given point in the work day. That seems crazy—and it also means each desk costs its owner nearly twice what it’s worth, every day. 

    When looking at the total cost per desk per employee coworking then can be extremely cost-effective. This is particularly true if you can access a space that offers members some type of pay-for-usage-only, including single-day use passes, with flexible space options that meet short-term or long-term needs, where you pay only for time used each time onsite. 

    Those are just a couple of reasons why coworking has grown so rapidly, and you’ve probably noticed there are now many coworking spaces to choose from, with layout and formats to fit almost any business type. According to an industry report, as of May 2017 forty-one co-working centers are established in Seattle, putting it into the top five for coworking spaces along with New York, San Francisco, Austin and Los Angeles.  

    If you’re thinking about joining a coworking space start by thinking long and hard about the different work scenarios that you require to drive and enhance collaboration and productivity—for small and large teams, and individuals—before you start your facility evaluation process. Here are some basic tips to get started: 

    1. Find a coworking space with tiered pricing that clearly outlines basic pricing and services, as well as amenities such as food/kitchen/café, mail and shipping, etc. You may also want meeting rooms, private phone rooms, advanced teleconferencing systems, or secure and/or enclosed offices.  

    2. As a rule of thumb, always ask upfront about what, if any additional fees may be required—some coworking spaces can charge quite a bit for services like mail drop-off. Look for a space that offers members some type of pay-for-usage-only, including single-day use passes, with flexible space options that meet short-term or long-term needs, where you pay only for time used each time onsite. 

    3. Coworking spaces may look the same on the surface, but if you’ve bought a house or car you know when it comes to quality, the cheapest option is rarely the best choice. Make sure to closely inspect the quality of materials and ergonomics at workstations, as this is something that can be easily overlooked in the rush-rush of a busy site tour.  

    But ergonomics goes beyond chairs and desks. Lighting can have a huge effect on productivity. Find out what if any acoustical lighting has been incorporated to further enhance productivity and health. A study by the American Society of Interior Designers indicated that 68 percent of employees complain about the lighting in their offices. As such, make sure the facility lets members control and customize lighting within each workspace; also inquire about lighting in general. 

    4. One thing for sure, a workplace isn’t just a room full of desks—you need amenities to help you work and conduct business. Case in point, at ATLAS we partner with FedEx to give our members quick access to a wide range of high-quality, affordable business services. Is there a cafe? Coffee? 

    What about more complex things like arranging special AV and catering needs for a special event or meeting? Is there a dedicated IT team or Help Desk to keep you always on, always connected? Shared cars/parking? Laundry pick up? Pet sitting? And so on.  

    5. Finally, when evaluating a coworking site, your best bet is to check out the location in person. This lets you determine if it has services and amenities you need, that the layout and mood to fit your workstyle, and that it is properly equipped to make your work experience productive.

    By Kim Burmester, Vice President, ATLAS Workbase

  • Summer Travel

    by Dr. Ari Gilmore
    | May 05, 2017

    summer travel blog 2017 600x337With the days getting longer and warmer, exploring the outdoors is top of mind for many Northwesterners. Whether you’re packing your bags for a South Pacific adventure or are planning to hike the nearby Cascades, spring is a great time to refresh your knowledge on medical travel tips. From updating your immunization records to discerning safe water sources, Ari Gilmore, MD with the Pacific Medical Centers Travel Clinic walks us through some seasonal reminders.

    Travel safety tips aren’t just for those planning a trip abroad. When exploring our own Puget Sound backyard, Dr. Gilmore recommends proactively protecting against any existing conditions such as asthma and allergies to optimize your time outdoors.

    “Our city continues to be more active and adventurous, so it’s important to be mindful of outdoor safety when planning for hiking and camping trips,” says Dr. Gilmore. “For local exploration, it’s a great idea for people to set aside a condensed medical kit, light rain jacket, water filter and even a candle and matches to ensure your time outside won’t make you wish you stayed inside.”

    As for global travel, Dr. Gilmore advises visiting a doctor at least three weeks in advance of your trip to review required and recommended travel vaccines, such as a malaria or yellow fever shot. He recommends giving yourself at least three weeks prior to travel to get vaccines because some require several steps spread out over time, and because their medical benefits typically won’t activate until 15 days after you receive them. As for popular destinations, Dr. Gilmore is seeing many Seattle patients choosing to travel in Southeast Asia, such as Vietnam and Thailand, closely followed by Africa.

    “Every traveler should review their immunizations and vaccines as a part of their travel checklist. I also recommend that my patients visit the Centers for Disease Control at to check on country travel notices and vaccine requirements, as every region differs in requirements,” explains Dr. Gilmore.

    Dr. Gilmore also shares that, contrary to popular belief, it is typically safe to drink tap water in major tourist areas. For more remote regions, he suggests that it’s better to seek out bottled water or use a filter. As for food, Dr. Gilmore recommends using discretion with vendors and confirming that safe food-preparation processes are in place, such as handwashing and the use of separate cutting board areas.

    In addition to prioritizing vaccine health, it’s equally important to prioritize sexual health. “Even though you’re on vacation, and part of travelling is the adventure, it’s important not to throw aside all caution, especially when it comes to sexual health. Don’t forget to pack protection and use good judgement” says Dr. Gilmore.

    For more information about Pacific Medical Centers, visit or call 1.888.4PACMED.

  • LGBT Matchmaker Event

    by Jason Dittmer, Director of Marketing & Communications
    | May 01, 2017

    056A2875GSBA members and partners believe that Supplier Diversity is a business imperative in today’s economic climate. It helps companies and government entities identify and deliver high-quality products and services while spending with small businesses and driving economic development in their communities. 

    In April, GSBA and Starbucks partnered to create the first-ever LGBT Business Matchmaker event in the northwest. This event connected over 90 small business owners, corporations, and government entities in order to explore opportunities to do business together. 

    James Hing, Manager of Global Sourcing and Supplier Relations, Supplier Diversity, Starbucks Coffee Company, led a workshop designed for LGBT-, woman-, or minority-owned certified business enterprises. It focused on how to write a capability statement and how to do a successful pitch to a corporate or government entity, and included time for writing, sharing, and critiques of the capability statements. 

    “Participating in the LGBT Matchmaker event was critically valuable for us in having a direct line to key influencers in the procurement process. Hearing exactly what they need from vendors, what they look for in a partnership, and learning how to tailor a presentation to speak their language gave us an advantage we were able to immediately use in answering an RFP that came directly from that experience.” Jolene McKenzie, Starline Luxury Coaches 

    Following the workshop, attendees took part in a lunch discussion with LGBT certified businesses, OutSmart Office Solutions, Precision Garage Service, and Tomboy X, and corporate procurement officers James Hing and Fernando Hernandez, Supplier Diversity & Sustainability Director, Microsoft, about the opportunities certification provides to small businesses. 

    "This was a great for networking and learning. I went in feeling like a novice, and came out with some valuable knowledge and good contacts." —Art Stone, Honest Biscuits 

    Register now for the April 2018 LGBT Matchmaker event at

  • Five Ways to Participate in #SmallBusinessWeek

    by Ilona Lohrey, Membership, Outreach & Engagement Manager
    | Apr 27, 2017

    NSBW2017_400x267 Every day, small business owners and entrepreneurs across the Pacific Northwest work relentlessly to grow their businesses, create 21st century jobs, drive innovation, and increase our competitiveness in the global economy.

    During National Small Business Week (Apr 30 - May 06), the U.S. Small Business Administration will recognize the contributions and impact of these entrepreneurs and small business owners.

    Here are four ways you can participate in next week's celebration:

    Engage on social media 
    Download the SBA social media guide and NSBW graphics; and, be sure to include the hashtag #SmallBusinessWeek in your posts. Use the same hashtag to join the official NSBW Twitter chat May 02 at 9:30am PST with @SCOREMentors.

    Watch live events online
    The SBA will broadcast several events throughout the week at Plus, SBA Administrator Linda McMahon will participate in a Facebook Live event May 02 at 8:30am with Facebook Vice President and Chief Privacy Officer for Policy Erin Egan about how to start and grow a business.

    Issue a proclamation or statement 

    Use this template proclamation to reach out to your city and local government offices.

    Participate in a webinar
    Register for the following six webinars the SBA is hosting with experts from various cosponsoring organizations:

    - The U.S. Economic Outlook and Its Impact on Small Businesses
    - 5 Fabulous Habits of Local Business Champions
    - Grow Your Business Online
    - The Future of Small Business Innovation
    - How to Write Your Email Content in 15 Minutes or Less
    - Find the Hidden Money in America

    Learn more about #SmallBusinessWeek here


  • A Message from Seattle's LGBTQ Executive Directors

    | Apr 21, 2017

    "Our community has had a painful and difficult week as it tries to sort out the ramifications of allegations made against Mayor Murray. Public accusations of sexual assault bring to the surface past and current fears and distress for community members who have lived under the long shadow of sexual abuse and rape. Given the current climate of threats against our hard fought civil rights protections, most especially against our transgender community, we may all be feeling especially vulnerable. 

    There is no one correct response to the recent news and, while we may feel external or internal pressures to take a “side,” we know that our community members are simultaneously at greater risk for both sexual assault and exploitation AND stigma and vilification. We know that both ‘sides’ of these harms are on the same coin of homophobia, transphobia, racism, and sexism.

    As a community, we stand in solidarity with all survivors of domestic and sexual violence including LGBTQ survivors, as we know they are incredibly marginalized, and often ridiculed and targeted for speaking out. We can simultaneously hold this truth alongside another truth that, independent of these specific allegations, the tactic to cast LGBTQ people as pedophiles and predators has been used against us for decades, as a means to garner fear and hatred that would justify limiting our rights. The timing of this situation reinforces this common refrain, raising doubts about our moral standards, making us further targets for violence, and forcing us back into the closet.

    This is not new to anyone who is LGBTQ, but we are a resilient community, proud of our achievements, determined to protect each other from harm, and united in our commitment to retain our hard fought civil rights laws.   

    As the Executive Directors of agencies serving the LGBTQ community, we encourage you to reach out to one of our agencies whether you are an adult or a youth, for services, support, and safety or to connect with your community. Our organizations support the arts, provide support for LGBTQ small business owners, fight for LGBTQ civil protections and human rights for all people, provide mental health and chemical dependency services, as well as offer information, advocacy and support for those who are dealing with HIV and AIDS, and provide LGBTQ survivors of sexual and domestic violence culturally-specific services and advocacy. 

    Seattle has one of the largest LGBTQ communities in the United States with a broad range of organizations that are proud to serve our community and are committed to continuing to build a vibrant LGBTQ community for our children, youth, adults and elders. We welcome you to reach out to us and get involved."

    Danni Askini, Executive Director
    Gender Justice League

    Karter Booher, Executive Director
    Ingersoll Gender Center

    Connie Burk, Executive Director
    The Northwest Network 

    Louise Chernin, Executive Director
    Greater Seattle Business Association

    Gary Davis, Executive Director

    Barbara Ebert, Executive Director
    Kris Hermanns, Executive Director
    Pride Foundation

    Rebecca Lane, Executive Director 
    Generations Aging With Pride

    Ann McGettigan, Executive Director
    Seattle Counseling Service

    Egan Orion, Executive Director

    Fred Swanson, Executive Director
    Gay City

    Joshua Wallace, Executive Director
    Seattle Area Support Groups